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When Death Spirals Hit… By Charles Payne

Hosting "Varney & Co." this Morning on the Fox Business Network from 9:20 am to 11:00 am EST

-adjective Slang: Vulgar

1. Insufficient or haphazard; not fully planned or developed
2. Incompetent; lacking sufficient ability or knowledge

We seem to be moving closer and closer to a half-assed country all in the name of the environment, contributing to the global community, redistribution of wealth, politics of envy, and erosion of faith and respect. The modern household will read by dimmer lights because incandescent bulbs will be outlawed and available only on the black market. We will wear dingier clothes because front-end washers can't work under current standards. And, our toilets don't flush well, meaning sticking around the bathroom longer and wondering if a single flush from an old-school toilet saved water versus three flushes of a water-saving toilet.

We'll drive cars that leave us stranded in inclement weather or if we forget to plug them in.

But, the biggest impact from this approach to life is lower expectations. Excuses for failure have been around for a couple of decades. When I was growing up I was told I had to be twice as good, now kids are told they can be twice as bad but get a wavier. In the past, nice guys finished last, now they don't have to finish because they will be provided for by those mean guys that bothered to run the race and cared about winning. Years of relentlessly demonizing success is taking its toll on a nation that isn't crawling out of the abyss with the same aplomb that it has in the past.

Then there is policy. It took until the clock was within the minutes of midnight before we decided to bomb the hell out of Libya in order to back rebels from a region of the country sympathetic to al-Qaeda. Our energy policy, economic policy, healthcare policy, and educational policy are all half-assed. Maybe in a perverse way some educators have decided to split the difference. Try to win, but also remain loyal to not putting in the hard work. A story in USA today questions test results at a Washington, DC school hailed as an example of how bad schools can be turned around.

Hey, they're trying because the old saying goes: "If you ain't cheating you ain't trying."
Crosby S Noyes Education Campus became a "shining star" and an example of how public schools could be turned around. Students at the school saw their "proficient" or "advanced" in math climb to 58% from 10% over a two-year period beginning in 2006. The meteoric improvement resulted in teachers at the school winning bonuses of $8,000 in 2008 and 2010. The principal won a $10,000 bonus for those years. I'm a huge fan of bonuses for great teachers and hard work, and overcoming huge obstacles. But, the celebrating could be premature. A USA Today investigation has found for the past three years Noyes' classrooms had an extraordinarily high number of erasures on standardized tests. The pattern was wrong answers were erased and changed to correct answers.

The data is worrisome, with examples in 2010 of 4th grade math students at Noyes wrong-to-right erasures per student being 11.0 versus the district average of 1.7, while 5th grade reading class saw average student wrong-to-right erasures per student of 10.4 versus the district average of 1.3. The most egregious differential came in 2009, with 7th grade students at Noyes somehow erasing the wrong answer and picking the right answer 12.7 times on average versus 0.8 for the district. A similar situation in Georgia saw a principal plead guilty to a felony charge of falsifying a state document and was banned from schools for two years. The real crime is that we are here in the first place and resorting to yet another easy way out.

There were actually some parents that wondered about their children's test scores that belied their true proficiency. Bravo to those parents that understand it's not about passing it's about learning. Too many parents have accepted, even pushed, for easier courses, less homework and more accommodative grading. Half-assed curriculums and subpar testing just isn't the right recipe to fend off the mounting global challenge, and yet I read a headline this past weekend in the New York Daily News:

"The Danger of College For All!"

I get it that not everyone is built for college and the half-assed psychological argument that intimidation of college would force someone to drop out of high school. But, how could a college degree be dangerous? You can choose to be a bum with a college degree but you can't be in charge of engineering at Boeing (NYSE:BA) without one. Biggie Smalls, one of my favorite rappers, said he was "considered a fool for dropping out of high school" because he went on to superstardom. Of course, anyone that drops out of school must be considered a fool as becoming a successful rapper is more than one-in-a-million proposition. Just imagine, however, educators and scholars pushing the idea that the very thought of college could ruin someone's life.

This is where we are as a nation. If this were the Boston Marathon it would be Heartbreak Hill. It's a serious test, a true test, and the kind of test where answers can't be half-assed or erased.

"She whom I love is hard to catch and conquer,
Hard, but O the glory of the winning were she won!"
-George Meredith

We must take the hard road sooner rather than later to preserve glory already attained, and future glories to be had for our children and grandchildren. Oh the glory of winning, it's a taste that's fading from our taste buds and drying in our pores.

Untangling a Tangled Web

The market was tooling along pretty smoothly and then made a sharp turn, selling off into the close of the session. What the heck happened? The day began with upward momentum carried over from last week but volume was anemic. Then the Federal Reserve tried a little experiment. For months I've written about POMO, the Permanent Open Market Operation campaign waged by the Fed to prop up the stock market. It has been wildly successful for equities, but not the rest of the economy, including jobs and housing. Yesterday there was a twist...TOMO!

"These operations do not represent a change in the stance of monetary policy, and no inference should be drawn about the timing of any change in the stance of monetary policy in the future." In reverse repo operations, the Fed loans some of the securities it holds to firms for a specific -- and usually short -- period, with the promise of taking them back at a certain time. The Fed has expanded the number of firms it can use as counterparties for the operations beyond the traditional 20 primary government security dealers, in the hopes to make the operations go more smoothly. The first set of small-scale operations will be conducted with the expanded repo counterparties announced in January, and the second set will be open to all eligible counterparties", the Fed said.

Today's Session

It's quiet thus far, not eerily quiet, just a lull as bulls and bears both wait for their cue. I would think the bulls want to erase yesterday's loss from the intra-day high, although it has to happen on little news before the start of trading. The outcome of the session could be the latest survey results on consumer confidence. On that note, expectations are a notch above Armageddon so the bigger reaction would be a positive surprise where consumers aren't as pessimistic as anticipated.